Sunday, May 28, 2006
Final Entry. Great Day. We took Rinat and Zarina out to buy clothes then to a café for lunch then back to the hotel for movies, basketball, music, and warm baths with fabulous hair products. We then took them to the hospital to see Sholpan and to take her some more clothes including her dress for court. Sholpan is doing well and was happy to see her brother and sister. We all were required to purchase and wear protective shoe covers for the visit. The fact that they resembled Wal-Mart bags and said “Thank You and Have a Nice Day” on them raised no eyebrows from the infection control nurse.
So long for now…
Keep in touch. Much love from all of us.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Today was a pretty good day. We had breakfast then went shopping and bought some DVD Russian cartoons for the children to watch when we get them home. Sorry, no subtitles. We had lamb kebab and salmon for lunch at the Slovenian Restaurant and it was quite tasty. After lunch we went earlier than usual to Arkhangelskaya and hung out with Rinat and Zarina, playing Hearts, Yahtzee, and Leapster. We went early because when arranged to go see Sholpan in the hospital. She was very glad to see us and we were delighted to see her and to see that she is now much improved. She no longer has fever. She is sleeping better. She still has a cough but it is probably not as bad as the coughing we heard back at the village.
We may get to see Sholpan again tomorrow. We will send her some more clothes as well as her dress for court on Monday. We will get to see Rinat and Zarina for a longer period of time tomorrow as we have court at 10 am Monday and will not have much time to visit with them after court because we have a plane to catch in Astana. Tune in tomorrow for the final entry. We won’t be able to blog again after court until we are back in Virginia Tuesday night. Thanks again for all your prayers and encouragement over the past few weeks.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Dawn. Halfway between darkness and light, east and west, squalid and picturesque, past and future, full of hope not yet realized, the forecast depending on so many factors. Kazakhstan changes each time we visit, always wealthier in finance, industry and technology. But always down the street (or in it) are symbols of a land slow to change. Today’s throwback came in the form of a horse drawn cart common on the farmlands near the village of Arkhangelskaya.
We are also halfway through a process; nearing the end of a three week trip to Petropavlovsk, hopefully culminating in a legal adoption on Monday the 29th. A second trip is in the future, hopefully a 4-5 day jaunt around June 24th. We hope to have everyone home by July 1st.
We spent this afternoon with Rinat and Zarina as Sholpan is still hospitalized (but apparently improving). We built a quite challenging crossword puzzle and played some indoor games. We had a doughnut break that was very much to Rinat’s liking; Krispy Kreme will seem like paradise. We created a “care package” for Sholpan including snacks, juice, a book, and a brown teddy bear. Svetlana will deliver it this evening.
Not much else to report here. We while away the hours eating meals and talking to other Americans, wandering out to the local shops, and occasionally visiting cafes. Today we returned to the Arabica coffee shop for cappuccino and ice cream. We miss you all very much and look forward to being back in the US on Tuesday.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Graduation day. Expectations were high for fabulous fashions; the boys in dark suits, the girls in school uniforms (aka French maid outfits). Alas, many of them opted for simple dark dresses, likely in response to the prayers sung out over the megaphone of the new mosque.
We had mixed news about Sholpan today. The good news is she is feeling better and should be well for court on Monday. The bad news is they will not let us go visit her because we are not her parents and “the hospital is full of germs that Americans are not used to”. So, we visited Rinat and Zarina and sent Svetlana to see Sholpanka who was a bit teary-eyed when she heard we could not visit her but was relieved that we hadn’t just abandoned her completely. We sent her some snacks and some crafts and a jigsaw puzzle. She is apparently getting some rest, which is more than Zarina can say; she was up a lot last night coughing.
Rinat seems okay and always suppresses any desire to cough when the doctor is around. Rinat and Sholpan both wrote documents to the court today saying, in their own apparently humorous words, that they want to have us as their parents and to have their surname changed and to move to the US. Our court is scheduled for Monday morning. We hope to be back in Richmond Tuesday evening sometime.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Not such a great day. Sholpan was taken in the ambulance to the hospital and there she will remain. They think she may have pneumonia and are running some tests. Tomorrow we will be able to visit her. We need to get special permission since we at the moment have no parental rights. And we won’t have any until she is well enough to go to court. Sort of a vicious circle! Zarina was not herself today. Her cough is starting to bother her and she is now running fever. The doctor is keeping an eye on her and giving her pills of some sort. Most of the visit was spent sitting in Mama’s lap or working a puzzle with her head down on the table. Rinat and Papa went outside for a while until a thunderstorm blew in. Then they tried some computer games. Rinat is trying to get the hang of using the touchpad. From the looks of things he is going to love video games. The judge has decided to hear our case on Monday morning. If Sholpan is not well, Svetlana hopes we can check her out of the hospital, take her to court and then check her back in. Of course, there are no flights out of here on Mondays. If we can not change our tickets then we will be leaving straight from court and taking a six hour car ride to Astana to catch the last plane of the day to Almaty in order to catch our 3:10 am flight on Tuesday. Assuming that court does not take very long!
No one was in the mood for photos today. We promise French Maids for tomorrow!
No one was in the mood for photos today. We promise French Maids for tomorrow!
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Our last official day of visitation! It has been a beautiful day, sunny and warm. We headed to the village armed with our outdoor toys and an arsenal of candy for the anticipated crowd. Upon arrival we discovered a very melancholy Sholpan who had just returned from bathing. Her caretaker informed us there would be no playing outdoors with wet hair! Plan B, do some artwork and have a snack. It became more and more obvious that Sholpan felt miserable. She curled up in a chair and tried to rest. When I felt her head and neck she was burning up. Again we questioned the caretaker if the doctor was aware that she was ill. It appears that the regular doctor has been away and a substitute has been giving her medicine. We had to stay late to talk with the director, which of course led to “tea”. When we finally headed back to town it was discovered that the director had neglected to send an important document with us. Back we went. Turns out she forgot to draft said document! Tomorrow morning she promises. Meanwhile, the doctor has returned and checked on Sholpan. He is sending her to the hospital. We will find out tomorrow morning if she will be returned to the orphanage or kept in the hospital. Svetlana will arrive in the morning to sort out the paperwork and take it to the judge and hopefully, get a court date. The visit was not without bright spots. We asked Zarina why it is that she always magically appears as soon as we arrive without having to be called for. She smiles and says “I can just feel it when you are near me”.
John, the flower lady and the squirrel nut vendor apparently retired shortly after your stay here. Actually, there are no more street vendors. You have to go into the markets for everything now. Rumor has it that the men in big hats put the brakes on street sales. Even the monkey photo man is no more. Valentina thinks that maybe this summer some of the activity may return. For now, no more evenings searching every street corner for the perfect ice cream bar. No more flowers for the hotel lady. Sometimes change is not a good thing!
Monday, May 22, 2006
Success! We found fresh doughnuts. The lady must have gotten tired of us pestering her everyday. Today when we asked she told us to stay put for a minute and she went to the kitchen and got a whole tray of them steaming hot. Rinat was a happy young man. Unfortunately, it is going to take more than a snack to happy up Sholpan. She is feverish and feels terrible. Rinat reports that she was up during the night and has been given medicine. He keeps up with those sisters! Zarina still has a terrible cough and has been to see the nurse. It doesn’t seem to be getting her down too much. We put our puzzle building skills to the test today. It makes it more of a challenge to work on a lumpy oriental carpet. Alas, we had to leave before the puzzle was complete. On the way back we stopped to get a cake for our friend Kim since she will be leaving tomorrow after having been here for six weeks. We will miss her. Tomorrow will be our last official day of bonding. On Wednesday our coordinator will apply for a court date. We are still hoping for Friday, but it will likely be at least Monday. Thursday is the last day of school here and big celebrations are being planned. Can’t wait to see all of those French Maids!
Sunday, May 21, 2006
We awoke early to the sounds of industrious neighborhood children banging rugs with sticks. Cleaning day. It is Sunday and our visit with the children was from 11:00 to 12:30 instead of the usual school schedule of 3:30 to 5:00 pm. After a tasty breakfast at the Skiff we were off to the lovely hamlet of Arkhangelskaya, enjoying the many potholes created by a particularly severe winter. The short spring and summer here seem to be the only time when road repair seems remotely feasible and the citizens of North Kazakhstan have their work cut out for them this year. We were simultaneously delighted to see the children and exit the car and we headed upstairs for an indoor visit, as it was still pretty chilly when we arrived.
We thought we would try something new today and I first reached into the backpack and brought out the video camera. We thought the kids would like to make a movie of themselves talking or singing or acting something out. We were wrong. They were quite teased by the idea and rampant shyness overwhelmed them when the tape was rolling. Instead they all took turns at cameraman while mom and dad did the singing. Susan had hoped the girls knew some rhyming songs with hand motions like Miss Mary Mack, but this seemed like a foreign concept. Sounds like a project for the Thompson girls to tackle when we get them stateside.
After the video bombed we returned to some familiar things (Leapster, card games, and banana break) and also tried one new game, Tangoes. You know, make a certain shape using several plastic pieces (triangles, a square, and a parallelogram). Rinat liked this very much but the puzzles were harder than they looked. Luckily the answers were on the back of the card, allowing Keith to keep from pulling out what little hair he has left. We took a few photos but Sholpan was not in the mood to have her picture made as she recently was given a haircut, the outcome of which was, clearly, personal dissatisfaction.
For lunch, we ate with Valentina and several others at the Slovenian Inn and then walked back to the Skiff through the park. The park was quite bustling this afternoon as everyone is off from work and school and the fun that comes from a ferris wheel, a moonwalk, go-cart tracks, and innumerable nausea-inducing metal structures swinging and spinning their occupants in all directions transcends culture.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
It is a very cold blustery day here. The locals are back in their fur hats and heavy jackets. We just have to endure being a bit chilly, as we have neither a fur hat nor a heavy jacket. This morning we had some photos developed for the baby house. Dr. Rimma wanted to use some prints from our trip two years ago to decorate for Children’s Day on the 1st of June. Then we went on a search for the elusive doughnut. No luck today. The children had to make do with crackers and a juice box. Of course, a juice box is amazing enough for them. We had Valentina explain to them that they will be going to court with us. They tried on the clothes we brought for them to wear for the occasion. Everything fit well enough, if not perfectly. They gasped in awe when the dresses came out of the bag. Rinat looked a bit panicked when I held up one of the dresses to him! He was glad to see a polo shirt was in the bottom of the bag. Uno was the game of choice for the first half of our visit and then we moved on to Yahtzee. It is not the easiest of games to try to explain in a foreign language! We took our snack break and then finished the day with a few rounds of Hearts. Mama and Sholpan ruled the game today. Zarina and Sholpan are developing coughs. We are hoping they do not get really sick. Valentina told them to go visit the doctor, but they insisted they are fine. The truth came out when they admitted that they can’t stand the cough medicine that they know they will get if they visit the doctor! I guess some things are universal.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Day 10 of visitation is now complete. Somehow making it to the double digits seems like progress! We had an invitation to come to the baby house this morning to visit Dr. Rimma and show off pictures of Noah. It turned into a two-hour party complete with champagne toasts, tea and my favorite local cookies. Keith got lots of hugs and kisses from her. And I got my fair share as well. She loved seeing how happy Noah is and how much he has grown. We were allowed to go upstairs and visit the babies and see the caretakers. The caretakers knew us right away and had to see pictures of Alisher. Dr. Rimma took us to see the music room where we spent most of our visitation time with Noah. It now has a model yurt, a stage with flowing pink curtains, and new festive curtains on the windows. The piano is gone, but the boombox remains. John, the red chairs are all gone. Do you suppose someone could have been too rough on them!
It turned rainy in the afternoon so we had an indoor visit with the children. Zarina came in first and enjoyed a few minutes of lap time alone with Mama. We worked a jigsaw puzzle and watched a slide show of our recent photos put to music. The children do love watching themselves. Valentina was back with us today and the girls were very happy with that. They are not as comfortable with the guy translator. The snack of the day was a box of Twixels, which are really skinny Twix bars. We were just getting into a game of Uno when the caretaker came back for the children. Some days the time really flies. Rinat reminded us before we left that he surely did like those doughnuts yesterday. I think that is as close as he has gotten to actually asking us for something. Maybe we can find some more tomorrow morning. This place could use a Krispy Kreme!
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Another fine day in beautiful north Kazakhstan began with fruit salad and fried eggs and the requisite tea. We went shopping at the grocery store on the lower level of the Iceberg mall where we found such delicacies as Diet Coke and Mountain Dew as well as doughnuts, peach juice boxes, and other fabulous items. Having completed viewing of the first season of Grey’s Anatomy, we returned to reading books to pass the time between visits to Arkhangelskaya.
Today we played outdoors as the weather was quite nice except for occasional bursts of severe windiness. We played a game of rings (throw the plastic ring on the stake, like at a carnival) and that was fun but slightly difficult on account of the wind. We also played with a purple kick ball and a yellow fun bouncy ball that the children really enjoyed.
We had some balloons that made squealing noises when you blew them up and let them go. The kids liked that too after Sholpan (vowels pronounced like in “Cole Haan,” for those amongst you who are shoe enthusiasts) and Zarina were finally able to get theirs’ inflated. We also tried blowing bubbles for a while and that was a good bit more fun than I expected. Even Rinat (sounds like “re-knot: to tie a knot again,” accent on the second syllable, for those of you who love Russian phonics) seemed to have a blast blowing bubbles. Hey! Who doesn’t? It was pretty windy, though, and Sholpan kept laughing because most of the time the wind blew her bubbles before she even got the wand to her face. Whatever works…
We took a snack break for doughnuts and juice. Rinat loved the doughnut and made that quite clear while he rapidly consumed his. The ladies also enjoyed it. We were then visited by local wildlife as a family of piglets wandered through from the yard next door, apparently wondering if we had any more doughnuts to share; they were tragically out of luck.
Director Sandi came by for a short visit and Yura, our stand-in translator, took a picture of us all together on the playground. The boys spent the rest of the day playing soccer while the girls started to assemble a challenging jigsaw puzzle. Alas, the puzzle must wait until tomorrow, as must we all.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
They really know how to start the day off here with a good breakfast. We had cucumber, potato, tomato, and egg salad chased by a cup of tea. Then we took in a movie (okay we watched a DVD) before heading out for a long walk around town. Stopped in one of our favorite shops called Smak on the way back to the hotel and picked up a snack lunch. Valentina dropped by to introduce us to our substitute translator, Urah. He is a nice young man who grew up in the village where the orphanage is. His summer plans include a trip to the US to study and work in Indiana. We don’t have a lot of info to share on that state. It was starting to cloud up by the time we made the trip so we opted for indoor play. The children were quiet this afternoon. Rinat seemed very tired and the girls were a bit wary of Urah. The Leapster was a big hit with Zarina and she did well with the color and alphabet games. We’re trying to sneak in a little learning when they least suspect it! Rinat showed his artistic side with his painting of a dom (home) beside a Birch tree (Petro is famous for the Birch forest). Notice that when he was asked to sign it, he chose to write his name in English. Sholpan made a mystery painting that she would not show us. Our bag of tricks is starting to run out of new things to do. Of course, we could not let a day go by without a few rounds of cards. Both Crazy 8’s and Hearts were played. Rinat can play cards while simultaneously playing with a computer game! He did not want to waste time on just one thing! The rain came just us we got back to town. Which interestingly we realized is only about eight miles from the village. We have been trying to pronounce the name of the village all week. It is Arkhangelskaya and it does not flow well out of an English speaking mouth. It is just a matter of “you can’t get from here to there” without taking the scenic 35-minute route. Something about a river and a bridge (sounds a lot like Richmond).